Home » Our Columns

Rumors Start Saying Huberman May be Next Police Superintendent.

Russ Stewart 27 September 2007 3 Comments

Just as the Chicago Bears are on the verge of a quarterback “controversy,” Chicago Mayor Daley is in the throes of a police superintendent controversy. He wants to replace Dana Starks, the mercurial interim superintendent—but he can’t find the right replacement.

In choosing a police superintendent, rank matters. Family history matters. Political connections matter. And, most importantly, being an “insider” matters. The so-called “culture” of the department decrees that a non-Chicagoan, somebody from another city, cannot win or earn the trust of rank-and-file police officers.

But, in the ongoing, fruitless search to replace the departed Phil Cline, the selection criterion has changed as the political, bureaucratic and racial environment has deteriorated – both inside and outside of the department.

Cline resigned April 2, amid headlines of barroom brawls involving off-duty cops. One beat a female bartender, and six beat four businessmen. In the special operations section (SOS), a supposedly elite unit that concentrates on high-crime areas, four officers were accused of home invasion, drug dealing and kidnapping.

Starks, black and Cline’s first deputy, has been anything but a caretaker. Some say he is out of control. Starks removed the head of SOS, and replaced him with a black, Walter Green. He demoted the head of the organized crime division, and replaced him with deputy superintendent Eugene Williams, a black. He also imposed a gag order on all subordinates, requiring press contact be funneled through his office. Starks was embarrassed after revelations that the FBI refused him security clearance to classified information regarding terrorist threats – which means he doesn’t know what his underlings know.

Already, in the black press, there’s a drumbeat to keep Starks in the job. The watch-word is that Starks has “street respect.” He’s also a blunt, polarizing figure who does not work well with the largely white police brass – who want him out.

Externally, Al Sharpton and his National Action Network lumbered into Chicago, bleating that the police are “anti-us,” meaning anti-black. The black president of the Police Board, Demetrius Carney, stated that Chicago is at a “crisis point” of police misconduct.

During August, three black males were fatally shot by police, and an older black died from police taser wounds. There have been 20 police shootings, with ten fatalities, this year. The Reverend Paul Jakes, who ran for mayor in 2003, proclaimed that Chicago has “trigger-happy” cops who “think black life is cheap.”

According news reports, Daley does not subscribe to the media-fed mantra that the police department is corrupt and that misconduct and brutality are rampant. “They (the police) are not out of control,” Daley said.

The nine-member police board received 40 applications to replace Cline, Thirteen were non-Chicagoans. They chose ten semi-finalists, and then three finalists. They include : deputy Superintendent Hiram Grau, the chief of the bureau of investigative services, a Hispanic; deputy Superintendent Charles Williams, the chief of patrol, a black; and Westchester County, N. Y. police chief Thomas Belfiore, a white. Each was asked how they would combat “police corruption.” But since Daley disputes the notion of such corruption–and was incensed by their responses—the mayor rejected all three.

Now Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) replaces David Gomez and Associates as the new recruiter. And so , Daley will get try again. This time my sources tell me the mayor is considering CTA president Ron Huberman, his former chief of staff and a onetime police officer, as the next superintendent. Once the CTA’s problems have stabilized, the reasoning goes, Huberman, age 37, will be ready for another promotion. If Daley picks City Hall Huberman as Top Cop, he’ll be the first “outsider” to run the department since O.W. Wilson took over in 1960.

To answer those who object that Huberman has real police administrative experience, remember that he also had no transportation background when he took over the CTA. Still, his appointment would infuriate the police establishment.

It will be months before the Board submits a new list. This much is certain: Those on the initial semi-final and final lists won’t re-surface.

Among those rejected were assistant deputy superintendents Eugene Williams, Anne Egan, Matt Tobias, and Deb Kirby, head of the Internal Affairs division, Maria Maher, chief of detectives, and Frank Liman, since ousted as chief of the Organized Crime division by Starks. Starks did not apply for the job.

Historically, a rank officer has risen to superintendent. Since 1900, only two “outsiders” have gotten the job: LeRoy Stewart, the Chicago postmaster, in 1909; and University of California criminologist O.W. Wilson in 1960, following the Summerdale police scandal. Wilson served until 1967.

Here’s a chronology:

1967: James Conlisk Jr., the son of a police officer (who was a driver during the 1950s for Mayor Richard J. Daley), was named superintendent. Conlisk was deputy superintendent in charge of the bureau of inspectional services, and previously headed the traffic department.

1974: James Rochford, the first deputy superintendent, and the son of a police officer, replaced Conlisk. Rochford served under mayors Daley and Mike Bilandic.

1978: Jim O’Grady, who was chief of detectives, replaced Rochford, and had the bad fortune to associated with Bilandic. After Bilandic lost to Jane Byrne, O’Grady was canned.

1979: Byrne went through two interim appointees – Samuel Nolan, a black, and Joe DiLeonardi, a role model for the TV hero Kojak – before settling on Richard Brzeczek as her superintendent. Brzeczek had been chief of the department’s field operations, and the youth division; he was the youngest superintendent.

1983: Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor appointed Fred Rice, then chief of patrol, as the city’s second black superintendent.

1987: Throughout his first term, rumors swirled that Washington wanted a more politically sensitive superintendent, i.e. more attuned to the black community. Just before his death Washington named LeRoy Martin, the chief of patrol, to replace Rice. Martin chose Charles Ford, a white, as his first deputy.

1992: Daley became mayor in 1989, and kept Martin in the job until 1992. The three contenders were Matt Rodriguez, a deputy superintendent and chief of the bureau of technical services; Gerald Cooper, legal counsel to the superintendent; and Ray Risley, deputy chief of investigations for the State’s Attorney’s office (who had worked for Daley when he held the post). Daley picked the “insider”: Rodriguez, who was the city’s first Hispanic Top Cop. Rodriguez named Jack Townsend, who was once Richard J. Daley’s bodyguard, as first deputy.

1998: To replace Rodriguez, Daley had three choices: Risley, then chief of the Organized Crime division; chief of detectives Terry Hilliard; and deputy superintendent Charles Ramsey, chief of the staff services bureau. In a surprise, Daley chose Hilliard, who was black, over Ramsey. Hilliard then made John Thomas, and, later, Phil Cline, his first deputy.

2003: Black deputy Superintendent John Richardson was supposed to be Hilliard’s heir apparent, but withdrew from the screening process. That left Cline, New York Police Department operating chief Gerry McCarthy, and Winnetka police chief Joe DeLopez as the contenders. The mayor’s pick was obvious: “Insider” Cline, who became the first white Top Cop in 20 years. Cline made Starks his first deputy, but stripped him of his power to run day-to-day operations, and to make personnel and manpower decisions, rendering him a figurehead. When Starks appeared before a council committee, Alderman Dorothy Tillman complained that Starks had been “castrated.”

Daley’s recent decision to sever the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) from the police department infuriated many rank-and-file officers and the police unions. Daley hired Ilana Rosenzweig, from the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, to be the new OPS head. The office employs 85, and all investigators were CPD employees. That will change according to what I hear.

The police union contract expired June 30, and the OPS severance violates a provision of the old contract.

The bottom line: Picking a black as superintendent might be a way to defuse Al Sharpton. Picking an outsider might look like reform. But throughout his career, Daley has picked “loyal” people for tough jobs, regardless of the public or media reaction.

That’s why some knowledgeable people insist that Huberman is the odds-on favorite to be the next police superintendent.


Attorney Russ Stewart, a veteran political analyst, is a regular columnist for The Chicago Daily Observer where he serves on its editorial board.


  • Dan Kelley (author) said:

    I think that Charles Fitzmorris, who was appointed by Mayor Thompson, was another police superintendent who did not come from the rank and file.

  • Orion (author) said:

    I do not think Chicago is ready for a gay police chief.

    The rank and file will not stand for it.

  • chuck matthews (author) said:

    Ron Huberman is not an outsider. I suggest that you check Ron’s resume. He was a decorated beat officer on the CPD with 24 commendations. Until he became commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management and Control (911) a few years back his highest rank in the Chicago Police Dept was Deputy Superintendant. Superintendant would be a natural and fitting position for Ron Huberman.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.